Resilience Through Music

Allison Russell’s story

Black History Month is a celebration of the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who have had a major impact on Canada and the world. In this blog, I write about how Allison Russel inspires me as a Black woman.

“I’m a summer dream, I’m a real light beam I’m worthy – of all the goodness and the love that the world’s gonna give to me, Ima give it back ten times, people, are you ready?”

-Allison Russell, The Returner, 2023


When I hear the name Allison Russell, I think of strength, and talent. The Canadian-born, self taught artist is a folk songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and activist. In all she does, she inspires, uplifts and calms with her thought-provoking lyrics.

 The story of this four-time Grammy-nominated singer doesn’t begin well. Allison was born in Montreal, Quebec to a Scottish-Canadian teenage mother and Grenadian father. Her mother struggled with mental health issues, which led to Allison eventually being placed in foster care. Allison’s mother soon remarried, and regained custody of her daughter. From ages 5-15, her stepfather – a white supremacist expatriate – became her abuser.


At age 15, Allison ran away from home. She moved to Vancouver a few years later, where she worked as a social service worker, helping people in marginalized populations find housing. Allison also went on to join a Vancouver-based band called Fear of Drinking, with whom she performed until 2003. Following this, she started her own band and called it Po Girl, which offered jazzy, modern songs that gave a new meaning to traditional ones.


Despite having a difficult childhood, Allison grew into a strong Black woman, which is reflected in her music. Her first studio album, Outside Child, features tracks recounting a lifetime of healing through a story that starts in brokenness and works its way towards wholeness. In Persephone, she sings of running away and escaping the grip of a drunk man, and seeking refuge in a person who seems to be a lover and friend:

My petals are bruised but I’m still a flower.” – Allison Russell, Persephone (Outside Child Album)


Next came The Returner, her second studio album and my favourite. The lyrics “I’m a summer dream I’m a real light beam, I’m worthy…. if you think you’re alone, hold on I’m coming,” linger in my mind, make me feel worthy and hopeful. The lyrics tell me that I’m never alone, no matter what I go through, and that I’m strong and can come back 10 times stronger whatever challenges I face.


In spite of her pain, her music is full of passion, insight, and grace. Undoubtedly through her music, she has healed, and her music helps others to heal (me included). In 2013, Allison got married to her Birds of Chicago bandmate and former housemate, Jeremy Lindsay (JT Nero). In 2014, they welcomed their daughter Ida. In 2024, Allison won her first Grammy for her song Eve Was Black. Life is good.

“Wish that I could keep you from sorrow and harm, none of us is here for long, but you’re not alone.”

– You’re Not Alone by Allison Russel


Esinam Adjaklo graduated with distinction from Stenberg College’s Business Diploma (Marketing Specialization) in 2024. She is currently interning with Stenberg College’s Marketing Department. She was born and raised in Accra, Ghana where she lived with her parents and 3 other siblings. She has always had a passion for art and creativity and graduated with a degree in Industrial Art with a major in Fashion Design from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Esi plans to continue her studies at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in the fall, make Canada her home, and establish her brand, Adzoa Atelier, as one of Canada’s top fashion houses.

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